I'm ranking the trade value of every player on the Tribe's 40-man roster. This is something FanGraphs does every summer for players league-wide (possibly having gotten the idea from Bill Simmons, who's done the same thing with the NBA).
Keep in mind that this is NOT a ranking of how good these 40 players are, though that is a strong factor. Longtime LGT readers are well aware of the "You trade contracts, not players" creed, and that's what we're talking about here. A good player under team control for years at a below-market contract has a greater trade value than a great player who's going to earn $25 million this season and then be a free agent.
One might rightfully point out that different players have different values to different teams, based on their needs. For the purposes of these rankings, you might imagine that all teams need all things.
Alright, on to the rankings:
15) Brandon Moss
Moss is under team control for another two years, likely for ~$7M in 2015, with a wide range of possibilities for 2016. He would have been a little higher on this list a week ago (well, he wouldn't have been on the list at all then, since he wasn't on the team), but we just got a very exact sense of his trade value (to Billy Beane anyway), so I'm putting him here.
14) Kyle Crockett
He is left-handed, he only turns 23 next week, and he's under team control for another six years. He allowed only 3 earned runs in 49 minor league innings between being drafted in 2013 and being called up in 2014, then he allowed only 6 earned runs in 30 MLB innings, with solid peripherals. That's a player every team would be happy to have.
13) Lonnie Chisenhall
I don't know what to make of Lonnie's trade value. He's entering his arbitration years, and will likely cost something like $2.2 million for 2015, with two more years of team control to follow. He posted a good batting line this year, but that was divided into an excellent first half and a pretty bad second half. His defense (which improved some in the second half) was well below average. He'd be an upgrade for some teams, but it also feels somewhat like the Tribe could use an upgrade themselves.
12) Giovanny Urshela
I put Urshela ahead of Chisenhall because Giovanny's stellar 2014 has put me in a position where I'd rather see the Indians lose Lonnie. Just for 2015, I think Chisenhall deserves a small edge, but Urshela's next three years are practically free, and that's worth more than whatever edge in expected production Chisenhall still has.
11) Jose Ramirez
Another player with six years of team control remaining (though I believe he could qualify as a Super 2), and in this case, a player who's already shown he can succeed at the MLB level, as that's exactly what he did during the final two months of 2014. A plus fielder at shortstop doesn't have to hit much, even Ramirez's 86 OPS+ for the year (which includes the awful numbers from his earlier call up) would be very playable.
10) T.J. House
This could be too high. A year ago I would have had House below Cody Anderson, and maybe 102 innings shouldn't be enough to change House's status so dramatically. On the other hand, there's nothing about his performance that screams "unsustainable" or "fluke." His ERA is almost certainly going to be above the 3.35 he delivered this year, but I think we can expect it to remain below 4.00. A league-average lefty is very valuable, especially one under team control for six years. Putting it that way, maybe #10 is too low.
9) Jason Kipnis
An odd case. At the start of the 2014 season, Kipnis would probably have been #1 on this list, coming off a great year and signed to what seemed a very team-friendly contract. A somewhat injury-plagued season has some wondering if 2013 was just a massive outlier, and the 5 years, ~$50 million Kipnis is still guaranteed does seem like such a bargain. He's only a year removed from being one of the 20-25 best players in baseball though.
8) Carlos Carrasco
Carrasco put things together in a big way in 2014, though it took a demotion to the bullpen (and close work with departed bullpen coach Kevin Cash) to get things going. After a couple months as a good reliever he was moved back to the rotation, and for the final two months of the season he was almost as good as Corey Kluber. He's entering the first of his three arbitration years, expected to earn something like $1.4 million, which seems a bargain. I view him as the Tribe's #2 pitcher right now, but additional years of team control likely give a some others more trade value.
7) Trevor Bauer
Bauer turns 24 next month and is under team control for another six seasons (two pre-arb, four arb). He dramatically improved his walk rate in 2014, his velocity was good, and at times he looked like the marquee pitcher he was viewed as when he was the #3 pick of the 2011 draft. It's a little frustrating that he hasn't developed much consistency, but he's still a pitcher most teams would love to have as an option.
6) Cody Allen
Allen was one of the better closers in baseball after taking over that role midseason, and he's under team control for another four years. He was almost equally as good in 2013, so it's not like his great year came out of nowhere. He's been basically as good as David Robertson over the last two years, and he's eight years younger. Robertson just got $46 million in guaranteed money. Allen is very valuable.
5) Danny Salazar
Salazar is at the same place as Bauer, in terms of years of team control and his status as a future Super 2 (meaning four years of arbitration. He's been better than Bauer though, and enough better that I bump in front of Allen too.
4) Carlos Santana
Santana, who's led the Tribe in home runs in two of the last three years and just led all of MLB in walk rate, is one of the better hitters in baseball, and in 2014 he became a competent first baseman. He's owed just $14.25 million over the next two years, and the Indians have a $12 million option on him for 2017, making it $26.25 for the next three years. He'd get twice that if he were a free agent this offseason.
3.5) Francisco Lindor
Lindor isn't on the 40-man roster, but his trade value seems worth mentioning. This is where I think he falls in.
3) Corey Kluber
Kluber still has a year of pre-arbitration eligibility, which means that if he and the team don't work out an extension in the next three and a half months, the reigning AL Cy Young winner will earn ~$500,000 in 2015. The Indians have him under team control through 2018. That such a great pitcher with so many years of team control left is only #3 on this list says a lot about how awesome the next two players/contracts are.
2) Michael Brantley
Brantley, who just finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting and is 27 years old, is under team control for four more years. He's guaranteed $21.625 million for the next three years, and the Indians have an $11 million option (or $1M buyout) for 2018. If he were a free agent this offseason, he might get nine figures. Chris Antonetti deserves massive praise for working out an extension with Brantley when he did.
1) Yan Gomes
Gomes is signed to an even better contract for the Indians, one that will pay him $21.95 million over the next five years, and also includes two team options (for $9M in 2020 and $11M in 2021). Like Brantley, Gomes is 27, thought as a catcher he's unlikely to age as well. I think it's possible that most MLB front office would prefer Brantley (and maybe Kluber) to Gomes, because catcher defense seems a bit overlooked, and those other two guys were both MVP candidates. Still, you get two extra years of Gomes for your ~$22 million in guaranteed cost, and I think that outweighs the added risks of playing catcher.
I look forward to seeing FanGraphs' MLB-wide list next summer, because if nothing changes much between now and then, the Indians should be well represented on the upper end of the list. They are better positioned for success than they have been since the fantastic run from 1994 to 2001.